How to Train Your Brain to Adopt Good Habits

By Meredith Wood

Habits are powerful, and as an entrepreneur you can teach yourself ways to adopt better habits to succeed in both your professional and personal life. By simply using the power of your brain, you can create pathways to new and healthy habits.

By definition, a habit is a sequence of actions that you learn over time and are often done unconsciously. You probably don’t even think about your morning routine anymore: wake up, brush teeth, drink coffee, and so on. Habits help us do things instinctively, and luckily, the brain is capable of re-organizing neural pathways to adapt to new habits, which is great news! It’s highly possible to create and maintain new healthy habits.

To begin — what habits are you looking to adopt or change? You may want to stop an undesirable habit, transform it into something more useful, or completely begin creating a new one. By identifying what you want to change or pursue you can be prepared to focus on that change.

Once you know what you want to change, figure out why. This is an important step as it can provide motivation and keep you motivated. Begin by writing down your reasons as to why you want to acquire a certain habit. Will it make you a more productive person? A more conscientious person? Keep the list and refer to it while you are in the process of changing your routine.

According to research from the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 66 days to fully ingrain a new habit. If you’re set on changing or adopting a new habit, follow these steps to allow for the most effective 66 days possible.

1. Set Achievable Goals

It’s often tempting to set big goals, but if you start with a small goal you will be more likely to succeed. If you are trying to cut back on social media, start with a goal that you will only look at it for 10 minutes every hour. If you want to eat less junk food, replace 1 snack a day with raw veggies. A big change might subconsciously make you resistant; small goals are easier to accept.

2. Avoid Bad Triggers

Become aware of what triggers a habit you want to stop. Try and eliminate those triggers if possible. If you stress-eat chips at work, after a while automatically seeing your desk will prompt your craving for chips. Once you know this, you can stock your fridge with a healthy alternative to grab when you enter your office. If you know after work you feel tired and give up before you make it to they gym, try switching to morning workouts. By anticipating the trigger of a bad habit, you are able to figure out how to avoid it.

3. Embrace Good Cues

You can also use triggers, or cues, for good. Since building a habit is training your brain to automatically do something, building a cue will begin the sequence of action for it to take place. Take a long walk at the same time every day. Drink a glass of water every hour. Turn off your phone every lunch break at 12:30. By keeping the same order, you’ll run on a sequence and help build up a habit. Visual triggers can also work, like laying out workout clothes on the bed for you to see when you get home.

4. Remember That Earlier is Better

Your motivation and willpower are highest in the morning. Make the morning the time to commit to a new habit (if it’s a once a day occurrence). If you want to start reading the news every day, do it before you leave for work. If you want to improve your eating habits, start with breakfast.

5. Convenience

The more time-consuming your activity is, the less chance you will do it. Get everything ready ahead of time so once it’s time to do your action, you’ll be prepared.

6. Fun

It is probably not shocking that you are more likely to stick with something if it’s enjoyable. For changes in your life or at work, make them as enjoyable as possible. If you’re trying to break your reliance on technology, substitute it with a game night at home. If you want to work out during lunch, find a friend to do it with.

7. Track Your Progress

Whether you use a journal or a phone app, keep track of when you do the habit. You won’t want to see yourself break the momentum, so documentation can help.

8. Reward Yourself

Your brain likes to be rewarded, and it’s an important part of forming habits. If you build a clear reward into the end of your task, it can help you solidify a habit. If you don’t check Facebook during the day, you can have 30 minutes to binge at night. If you run 3 miles over lunch, you can get the smoothie you enjoy. Building in a rewards system can also help with motivation.

What habits are you going to start forming today?

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Meredith Wood
Meredith Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans that matches business owners with the best funding providers for their business. Prior to Fundera, Meredith was the CCO at Funding Gates. Meredith is a resident Finance Advisor on American Express OPEN Forum and an avid business writer. Her advice consistently appears on such sites as Yahoo!, Fox Business, Amex OPEN, AllBusiness, and many more. Meredith is also the Senior Financial and B2B Correspondent for AlleyWire.

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